48 Best Sights in Around Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, Israel

Beit Guvrin–Maresha National Park

Fodor's choice

This national park encompasses some 1,250 acres of rolling hills in the Judean lowlands, where, for thousands of years, people dug quarries, burial caves, storerooms, hideouts, and dovecotes in a subterranean labyrinth of unparalleled complexity. In the Second Temple period, millions of pilgrims ascended to Jerusalem to offer animal sacrifices. At Beit Guvrin, doves were raised on a vast scale to supply the pilgrims' need. Unlike many ruins, this national park allows you to readily envision life 2,000 years ago, both above- and underground.

The antiquities sprawl around the kibbutz of Beit Guvrin, just beyond the junction of Routes 38 and 35. These are bits and pieces of the 2nd- to 3rd-century AD Beit Guvrin, renamed (around the year 200) Eleuthropolis, "the city of free men." The amphitheater—an arena for Roman blood sports and mock sea battles—is one of only a few discovered in Israel.

After entering the park, drive south toward the flattop mound of ancient Maresha, known today as Tel Maresha. King Rehoboam of Judah fortified it, but it was during the Hellenistic period (4th to 2nd centuries BC) that the city reached its height and the endless complexes of chalk caves were dug. Maresha was finally destroyed by the Parthians in 40 BC and replaced by the nearby Roman city of Beit Guvrin. The view from the tell is worth the short climb.

Ancient Mareshans excavated thousands of underground chambers to extract soft chalk bricks, with which they built their homes aboveground. Residents then turned their "basement" quarries into industrial complexes, with water cisterns, olive-oil presses, and columbaria (derived from the Latin word columba, meaning dove or pigeon). The birds were used in ritual sacrifice and as food, producers of fertilizer, and message carriers.

The most interesting and extensive cave system is just off the road on the opposite side of the tell (the trail begins at a parking lot). It includes water cisterns, storerooms, and a restored ancient olive press. Kids will love exploring (with close parental supervision, though the safety features are good), but the many steps are physically demanding.

The great "bell caves" of Beit Guvrin date from the late Roman, Byzantine, and early Arab periods (2nd to 7th century AD), when the locals created a quarry to extract lime for cement. At the top of each bell-shape space is a hole through the 4-foot-thick stone crust of the ground. When the ancient diggers reached the soft chalk below, they began reaming out their quarry in the structurally secure bell shape, each bell eventually cutting into the one adjacent to it. Although not built to be inhabited, the caves may have been used as refuges by early Christians. In the North Cave, a cross high on the wall, at the same level as an Arabic inscription, suggests a degree of coexistence even after the Arab conquest of the area in AD 636. More recently, Beit Guvrin was an Arab village, depopulated in 1948.

After leaving this system, continue walking down the hill to visit the Sidonian Burial Caves. These magnificent 3rd- to 2nd-century BC tombs—adorned with colorful, restored frescoes and inscriptions—have important archaeological evidence as to the nature of the town's ancient Phoenician colonists.

The undeveloped complexes of caves near the tell are off-limits to visitors. Keep to the marked sites only. The brochure at the entrance has a good map of the site.

Church of the Nativity

Fodor's choice

The stone exterior of this church marking the traditional site of the birth of Jesus is crowned by the crosses of the three denominations sharing it: the Greek Orthodox, Latins (Roman Catholic, represented by the Franciscan order), and Armenian Orthodox. The blocked, square entranceway dates from the time of the Byzantine emperor Justinian (6th century); the arched entrance (also blocked) within the Byzantine one is 12th-century Crusader; and the current low entrance was designed in the 16th century to protect the worshippers from attack by hostile Muslim neighbors.

The interior is vast and has benefited from a recent renovation that revealed exquisite gold-tiled mosaics on the walls. In the central nave, a large wooden trapdoor reveals a remnant of a striking mosaic floor from the original basilica, built in the 4th century by Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, the Roman emperor who first embraced Christianity. Emperor Justinian's rebuilding two centuries later enlarged the church, creating its present-day plan and structure, including the 44 red-stone columns with Corinthian capitals that run the length of the nave in two paired lines.

This is the oldest standing church in the country. When the Persians invaded in 614, they destroyed every Christian church and monastery in the land except this one. Legend holds that the church was adorned with a wall painting depicting the Nativity, including the visit to the infant Jesus by the Three Wise Men of the East. For the local artist, "east" meant Persia, and he dressed his wise men in Persian garb. The Persian conquerors did not understand the picture's significance, but "recognized" themselves in the painting and so spared the church. In the 8th century, the church was pillaged by the Muslims and was later renovated by the Crusaders. Patches of 12th-century mosaics high on the walls, the medieval oak ceiling beams, and figures of saints on the Corinthian pillars hint at its medieval splendor.

The elaborately ornamented front of the church serves as the parish church of Bethlehem's Greek Orthodox community. The right transept is theirs, too, but the left transept belongs to the Armenian Orthodox. The altar in the left transept is known as the altar of the kings, because tradition holds this to be the place where the three Magi dismounted. For centuries, all three "shareholders" in the church have vied for control of the holiest Christian sites in the Holy Land. The 19th-century Status Quo Agreement that froze their respective rights and privileges in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Tomb of the Virgin pertains here, too: ownership, the timing of ceremonies, number of oil lamps, and so on are all clearly defined.

From the right transept at the front of the church, descend to the Grotto of the Nativity, encased in white marble. Long lines can form at the entrance to the grotto, making the suggestion of spending just an hour to see the church an impossibility. Once a cave—precisely the kind of place that might have been used as a barn—the grotto has been reamed, plastered, and decorated beyond recognition. Immediately on the right is a small altar, and on the floor below it is the focal point of the entire site: a 14-point silver star with the Latin inscription "hic de virgine maria jesus christus natus est" (Here of the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ was born). The Latins placed the original star here in 1717 but lost control of the altar 40 years later to the more influential Greek Orthodox. In 1847 the star mysteriously disappeared, and pressure from the Turkish sultan compelled the Greeks to allow the present Latin replacement to be installed in 1853. The Franciscan guardians do have possession, however, of the little alcove a few steps down on the left at the entrance to the grotto, said to be the manger where the infant Jesus was laid.

Clos de Gat

Fodor's choice

Winemaker Eyal Rotem puts a premium on quality at this boutique estate winery that produces 100,000 bottles a year. While it's not kosher, the winery prides itself on its ancient and modern Jewish history: it houses a 3,000-year-old-winepress, and during the 1948 war it served as the base for Itzhak Rabin and his Har'el Brigades. Many Clos de Gat wines age beautifully, including the Sycra series, which has garnered international accolades. 

Rte. 44, Israel
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Tours and tastings NIS 150, Closed Sat. Other days, by appointment only

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Ein Gedi Nature Reserve

Fodor's choice

This beautiful nature reserve has a number of well-marked trails, all of which are off the main entrance. It is home to Nahal David (David's Stream), and the cave at Nahal David is believed to be the place where David hid while Saul hunted him down 3,000 years ago (I Samuel 24:1–22). Walkers can also visit the canyon of Nahal Arugot and the remains of an ancient synagogue and village. Get a map from the admission booth, and plan to spend anywhere from an hour to a day here, depending on your interest in nature and hiking. Reaching Ein Gedi from the north, the first turnoff to the right is the parking lot at the entrance to the reserve.

The clearly marked trail to Nahal David rises past several pools and small waterfalls to the upper waterfall. There are many steps, but it's not too daunting. Allow at least 1¼ hours to include a dip under one of the lower waterfalls. Look out for ibex (wild goats), especially in the afternoon, and for the small, furry hyrax, often seen on tree branches. Leopards here face extinction because of breeding problems and are seldom seen nowadays.

If you're a serious hiker, don't miss the trail that breaks off to the right 50 yards down the return path from the top waterfall. It passes the remains of Byzantine irrigation systems and has breathtaking views of the Dead Sea. The trail doubles back on itself toward the source of Nahal David. Near the top, a short side path climbs to the remains of a 4th century BC Chalcolithic temple, the treasures of which can be seen in Jerusalem's Israel Museum. The main path leads on to the streambed, again turns east, and reaches Dudim Cave, formed by boulders and filled with crystal clear spring water. Swimming in "Lover's Cave" is one of the most refreshing and romantic experiences in Israel. Since this trail involves a considerable climb (and hikers invariably take time to bathe in the "cave"), access to the trail is permitted only up to 3½ hours before closing time.

Although not as lush as Nahal David, the deep canyon of Nahal Arugot is perhaps more spectacular. Enormous boulders and slabs of stone on the opposite cliff face seem poised in midcataclysm. The hour-long hike to the Hidden Waterfall (not too difficult) passes spots where the stream bubbles over rock shelves and shallow pools give relief from the heat. If you're adventurous and have water shoes, you can return through the greenery of the streambed. Experienced hikers can ascend the Tsafit Trail to Mapal Hachalon (translated as "window waterfall"), where there are stunning views over the Dead Sea.

A Jewish community lived in Ein Gedi for more than 1,200 years, beginning in the 7th century BC. In the 3rd century AD, they built a synagogue between Nahal David and Nahal Arugot. Its beautiful mosaic floor includes an inscription in Hebrew and Aramaic invoking the wrath of heaven on troublemakers including "whoever reveals the secret of the town." The secret is believed to refer to a method of cultivating balsam plants, which were used to make the prized perfume for which Ein Gedi was once famous. These famous plants, brought back to the area in the last decade after disappearing hundreds of years ago, can be seen in the botanical garden of the nearby Kibbutz Ein Gedi.

Reservations can be made in advance online or by phone, though you may need a Hebrew speaker to help you.

Flam Winery

Fodor's choice

Family-owned, this well-regarded winery sources grapes from the Judean Hills and the Upper Galilee. Many of its bottles, including the Bordeaux blend called The Noble, have garnered international praise for their complexity. Wine-and-cheese tastings are held by appointment only at an elegantly rustic communal table indoors or outside on a wooden deck overlooking the vineyards that are surrounded by pine forests.

Hisham's Palace

Fodor's choice

Known as Khirbet al-Mafjar in Arabic, this restored palace has exquisite stonework and a spectacular mosaic floor. Hisham was a scion of the Umayyad Islamic dynasty, which built the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Although the palace was severely damaged by the great earthquake of 749 AD, the surviving mosaics and stone and plaster reliefs attest to its splendor. A huge canopy, added as part of a Japanese-funded restoration effort, provides shade as you tread on catwalks above the stonework, including the renowned "Tree of Life" mosaic. Fragments of ornate stucco reliefs are still visible on some of the walls. The site is about 4 km (2.5 miles) north of central Jericho, and the restaurant just beside it serves tasty Palestinian salads and meats, along with fresh juices and coffee.

Jericho Cable Car

Fodor's choice

To the west of Tel Jericho is the Mount of Temptation, identified by tradition as the "exceedingly high mountain" from which Satan tempted Jesus with dominion over "all the kingdoms of the world" (Matthew 4). Departing from a ticket booth facing Tel Jericho, a cable car (locals know it by the French, téléphérique) transports riders up and down the mountain. You can see all of Jericho and parts of Jordan from the restaurant at the upper station. Halfway down the mountain sits the remarkable Greek Orthodox monastery of Qarantal, the name being a corruption of quarantena—a period of 40 days (the source of the English word quarantine)—the period of Jesus's temptation. Built into the cliff face in 1895 on Byzantine and Crusader remains, it is flanked by caves that once housed hermits.

Kalia Beach

Fodor's choice

Kalia Beach (the name derives from kalium, the Latin name for potassium, found in abundance here) is the place to go for a free mud bath. Slather your whole body with the mineral-rich black mud, and let it dry before showering or rinsing off in the Dead Sea. A bar built on a wooden deck overlooking the water plays music and serves a wide variety of beer, wine, and cocktails along with burgers, pizza, falafel, and ice cream. Plenty of beach chairs and sun shades make this a place where you can spend a whole morning or afternoon. Shops sell Dead Sea cosmetics, hats, and swimwear, along with locally made products like wine. There is also a juice bar. While the winding path down to the Dead Sea shore is well-kept and not too difficult to navigate, there are also regular free shuttles. Towels are available to rent or purchase; lockers are also available. Massage rooms and a spa have closed since the coronavirus. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (free); showers; toilets. Best for: swimming; walking.

Latrun Armored Corps Museum

Fodor's choice

The name Latrun is thought to derive from "La Toron de Chevaliers" (The Tower of the Knights), the French name of the Crusader castle that occupied the crest of the hill in the 12th century. Eight centuries later, in 1940, the British erected the concrete fortress that, in the 1948 War of Independence, Israeli forces attempted five times to capture from Jordanian soldiers. Today, the structure houses a museum, called Yad Lashiryon in Hebrew, that honors Israeli armored corps soldiers who have died in battle from 1948 until the present. Items on display include a collection of more than 160 tanks, and children can explore sturdy vehicles outfitted with steps for them to climb. 


Fodor's choice

A symbol of the ancient kingdom of Israel, Masada (Hebrew for "fortress") towers majestically over the western shore of the Dead Sea. Its unusual natural form—a plateau set off on all sides by towering cliffs—attracted Herod the Great, who built an opulent desert palace here in the 1st century AD. Masada became the last refuge of the Jews in AD 73 to 74, during their final fight against Rome. The historian Flavius Josephus wrote that the rebels (almost 1,000 people) chose to commit suicide rather than surrender, although no one can be sure what happened. In recognition of its historical significance, this was the first site in Israel to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001.

To reach the top, most visitors make use of the speedy cable car (NIS 46 round-trip). More intrepid visitors climb the eastern Snake Path (at least 45 minutes of steep walking), some even starting before dawn to watch the sunrise. Others take the less arduous western Roman Ramp path, accessible only from the road that descends from Arad. Allow no less than 1½ hours to explore the site. The most popular route heads counterclockwise. If time allows, be sure to visit the southern area as well (especially the huge cistern and echo wall). Maps, a detailed brochure, and a very useful audio guide are available at the top entrance.  Water fountains (but no other refreshments) are available on Masada itself, so save bottles for refilling.

The entire mountaintop—less than 20 acres—is surrounded by a 4,250-foot-long casemate, a double wall that included living quarters and guardrooms. Most of the important buildings are concentrated in the high northern area. The Northern Palace, Masada's most impressive structure, is an extraordinary three-tiered structure that seems to hang off the highest and most northerly point of the mountain. The panoramic effect is awesome: baked brown precipices and bleached valleys shimmer in the midday glare. Clearly visible from the upper terrace are the Roman camps—the remains of the most complete Roman siege system in the world—and "runner's path" (used for communication between the camps).

The synagogue, one of only four that have been uncovered from the Second Temple period, can be seen in the western casemate. The building's orientation toward Jerusalem suggested its function, but the stone benches (synagogue means "place of assembly") and the man-made pit for damaged scrolls (a genizah) confirmed it. At an opening in the walls on the western edge, you can stand where the Roman legionnaires breached Masada's defenses. The original wedge-shape ramp is below, though its upper part has since collapsed. The Western Gate leads to a modern trail down this side of the mountain (access via Arad only).

Adjoining the lower cable-car station is the Masada Museum, with hundreds of artifacts from the site. Especially moving is a set of 12 pottery shards, each bearing a single name. Archaeologists believe these might have been lots drawn to decide the order in which the last remaining rebels would die. All the artifacts are placed within scenes of daily life. A fine summer-night diversion is the sound-and-light show at Masada's western base. The show runs every Tuesday and Thursday from March to October and costs NIS 50.

Off Rte. 3199, 86935, Israel
Sights Details
Rate Includes: NIS 31, entrance and round-trip cable car NIS 77, museum NIS 20, It\'s possible to reserve tickets online ahead of time

Milk Grotto

Fodor's choice

Legend has it that when Mary stopped here to nurse the baby Jesus, a drop of milk fell on the floor in this cavelike grotto and the walls turned white. The grotto and the church above are beautiful, especially just before sunset when the light catches the stained-glass windows.

Monastery of St. George

Fodor's choice

Reached by a 20-minute hike, this ancient Greek Orthodox monastery is built into the cliffs overlooking Wadi Qelt, a desert streambed that fills with water during the winter rains. The monastery was one of many established in the desert outside Jerusalem in the 4th century, and it has drawn devoted monks and pilgrims ever since. With several previous versions destroyed in various wars and earthquakes, most of the current building stems from an extensive renovation project in the 19th century, but some sections are much older. There are mosaics from the 6th century, elaborate wooden doors from the 12th century, and a chapel inside a cave where some believe the prophet Elijah once took refuge. The monks living here offer visitors coffee, tea, and cold water and are happy to answer questions about their lifestyle. Modest dress is required, including long skirts for women. Both Israeli- and Palestinian-plated cars are allowed here.

Qumran National Park

Fodor's choice

The sandy caves in the cliffs north of the Dead Sea yielded the most significant archaeological find ever made in Israel: the Dead Sea Scrolls. These biblical, apocryphal, and sectarian religious texts were found under extraordinary circumstances in 1947 when a young Bedouin goatherd stumbled upon a cave containing scrolls in earthen jars. Because the scrolls were made from animal hide, he first went to a shoemaker to turn them into sandals. The shoemaker alerted a local antiquities dealer, who brought them to the attention of Professor Eliezer Sukenik of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Six other major scrolls and hundreds of fragments have since been discovered in 11 of the caves, and some are on display in Jerusalem's Israel Museum.

Scholars believe that the Essenes, a Jewish separatist sect that set up a monastic community here in the late 2nd century BC, wrote the scrolls. During the Jewish revolt against Rome (AD 66–73), they apparently hid their precious scrolls in the caves before the site was destroyed in AD 68. Others contend the texts were brought from libraries in Jerusalem, possibly even the library of the Jewish Temple.

Most books of the Hebrew Bible were discovered here, many of them virtually identical to the texts still used in Jewish communities today. Sectarian texts were also found, including the constitution or "Community Rule," a description of an end-of-days battle ("The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness"), and the "Thanksgiving Scroll," containing hymns reminiscent of biblical psalms.

A short film at the visitor center introduces the mysterious sect that once lived here. Climb the tower for a good view, and note the elaborate system of channels and cisterns that gathered precious floodwater from the cliffs. Just below the tower is a long room some scholars have identified as the scriptorium. A plaster writing table and bronze and ceramic inkwells found here suggest that this may have been where the scrolls were written. You shouldn't need more than an hour to tour the basics of this site, but there are also hiking trails starting from here, including one that stops at the caves where some of the scrolls were discovered. There is also a large and clean cafeteria offering simple food (falafel, chicken schnitzel, salads) and large windows with panoramic views of the Dead Sea and surrounding desert. 

Shepherds' Field

Fodor's choice

Just east of Bethlehem is the town of Beit Sahour, famous in Christian tradition for the Shepherds' Field, where herdsmen received the "tidings of great joy" that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Luke 2). The same fields are also said to be where the biblical Ruth the Moabite, daughter-in-law of Naomi, "gleaned in the field" (Ruth 2:2). Local Christians disagree about where the real Shepherds' Fields are, and two chapels and gardens give rival interpretations, complete with rival Byzantine relics. Entrance is free to both.

The Greek Orthodox Der El Rawat Chapel is a small white building with a charming red dome. Inside, bright paintings of the Stations of the Cross cover the walls and soaring ceilings. A mosaic dating to a 5th-century Byzantine church lies just outside. A Catholic church—Shepherds' Field of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land—is a short walk away. This tiny, minimalist chapel built over a cave is tucked away in a lush garden, with walking paths surrounded by soaring pines and bright aloe plants. Outside are a number of souvenir stores and coffee shops.

Adullam-France Park

This lush green park has paths and lookouts over the Ella Valley as well as archaeological sites, including an ancient synagogue and village and numerous caves that historians say Jewish rebels used for hiding, storing goods, and burials during the second century Bar Kokhba revolt against the ruling Roman empire. In addition to walking trails, there are also off-road-vehicle and bicycle trails.

Arava Road

Traversing the Arava Valley from Ein Bokek to Eilat, the 177-km (111-mile) Route 90 parallels the Israel--Jordan border, almost touching it at some points. To the east rise the spiky, red-brown mountains of Moab, in Jordan. The road follows an ancient route mentioned in biblical descriptions of the journeys of the Children of Israel.

The Arava (meaning "wilderness") is part of the Great Rift Valley, the deep fissure in the earth stretching from Turkey to East Africa, the result of an ancient shift of landmasses. Just south of Ein Bokek, you pass signs for the communities Neot HaKikar and Ein Tamar (home to many metalwork and jewelry artists), whose date palms draw water from underground springs rather than irrigation. With the Edom Mountains rising in the east, the road continues along the southern Dead Sea valley, where you cross one of the largest dry riverbeds in the Negev, Nahal Zin, and pass several sprawling date orchards that belong to neighboring kibbutzim.

Artists Quarter

A handful of artist studios and other venues, including a brewery and a winery, fill what was once an industrial area on the outskirts of Arad. Explore glass-making at Heli Studio and soap-making at Yonat Midbar. Stop at Studio Coffee, on the ground floor of Zvi's Gallery, for a cup of coffee roasted on-site, a fresh smoothie, and a variety of creative sandwiches. Casa Paniz offers homemade Middle Eastern food inside a woodworking studio. In addition, the Midbar winery offers tours and tastings, while the Sheeta Brewery serves homemade beer and bar food. This area is more lively on the weekends, as many of the businesses are closed or have limited hours during the week. It is best to call ahead.

Sadan St., Israel
058-627–5976-Studio Coffee

Biankini Beach

This large beach offers paying guests access to parking, private bathing, abundant Dead Sea mud, and shaded seating beside a half-Olympic freshwater pool as well as a wading pool. A mini market offers light groceries and beach accessories. There is also a kosher Moroccan restaurant on the premises along with fast food like fried chicken and hamburgers. You can spend the night in cabins, a villa, or at campsites. Upon request, a shuttle takes you down the long trek to the Dead Sea shore for 10 shekels. Amenities: food and drink; parking (free); showers; toilets. Best for: walking; swimming; sunset.

Off Rte. 90, 90665, Israel
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Fri. and Sat.: NIS 200. Sun.–Thurs.: NIS 100

Church of St. Catherine

Built by Franciscans in 1882, Bethlehem's Roman Catholic parish church incorporates remnants of its 12th-century Crusader predecessor. Note the bronze doors with reliefs of St. Jerome, St. Paula, and St. Eustochium. From this church, the midnight Catholic Christmas mass is broadcast around the world. Steps descend from within the church to a series of dim grottoes, clearly once used as living quarters. Chapels here are dedicated to Joseph, the Innocents killed by Herod the Great, and to the 4th-century St. Jerome, who wrote the Vulgate—the Latin translation of the Bible—supposedly right here. St. Catherine is adjacent to the Church of the Nativity, and accessible by a passage from its Armenian chapel. Next to the church is a lovely cloister, restored in 1949. A small wooden door (kept locked) connects the complex with the Grotto of the Nativity. The church is open daily, with Mass at 7:15 am Monday through Saturday and at 7:30 am on Sunday.

Domaine du Castel

This vineyard consistently produces some of the country's best wines. The small winery, with its exquisite cellar, runs tours and tastings of wine and cheese. Coordinate your visit in advance, and note that the minimum age to enter is 18.

Rte. 4115, 9097400, Israel
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Visitors can buy wine and cheese or book a tour and tasting from NIS 80, Closed Fri. afternoon and Sat., By appointment only

Einot Tzukim Nature Reserve

Known for its freshwater springs, Einot Tzukim (also called Ein Fashkha) is a nature reserve with many species of trees and reeds not often found in the arid Judean Desert. You can swim in three shallow spring-fed pools, peek at the receding Dead Sea water, and visit an archaeological site that contains ruins of a perfume factory and a Roman-style manor house from the Second Temple period. A fourth deeper pool is open on weekends during spring and all week in July and August. There are free tours on Friday and Saturday at 11 am and 1 pm, but it's worth checking a day or two in advance whether English will be spoken. The tours are not offered during July and August, when the heat is extreme. A small stand sells ice cream, snacks, and cold drinks. Last entry is an hour before closure. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (free); showers; toilets. Best for: walking; swimming.

Genesis Land

At this parched patch of the West Bank, beside the settlement of Alon, families can imagine Biblical life through the eyes of Jewish actors. Visitors ride camels, bake pita, and drink coffee in a tent that mimics the Bedouin style. Travelers have said this site is fun if campy.

Good Samaritan Museum

About 2,000 years ago, thieves ambushed a man traveling the Jerusalem–Jericho road, and only one passing Samaritan bothered to help him, dragging him to a nearby inn (Luke 10). Today, on what may be the same spot, this museum is housed in a restored Ottoman inn in the West Bank, about 22 km (14 miles) west of Jerusalem. It's run by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and has an extensive collection of intricate mosaics scraped off the floors of churches, synagogues, and Samaritan houses of worship in Gaza and the West Bank. When you visit, ask to see the silent film about the parable; it dates from the 1920s and was shot amid the very same arid hills that stretch for miles from the museum. Audio guides for the museum are available in English, and the staff has plenty of information and maps about nearby sites and trails as well.

Hollander Distillery

This family-run distillery uses local produce to make liquor and schnapps in flavors like etrog (citrone), apple, and pomegranate. Call ahead to arrange a tour and tasting on the scenic outdoor pergola or inside the visitor center.

Kadma Wines

Born in the Republic of Georgia, former software engineer Lina Slutzkin remembers how wine was once made there in torpedo-shape clay casks. At Kadma Wines, she uses these unusual vessels to produce a range of red wines. Tours and tastings are available daily by reservation only; book as soon as you can, as they fill up fast. There is a small menu of cheeses, smoked fish, roasted vegetables, and salads to accompany the wine.

Rte. 44, 9973500, Israel
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Tastings from 55 NIS; reservation required

Manger Square

Bethlehem's central plaza and the site of the Church of the Nativity, Manger Square is built over the grotto thought to be the birthplace of Jesus. The end of the square opposite the church is the Mosque of Omar, the city's largest Muslim house of worship. The square occupies the center of Bethlehem's Old City and has a tourist information office, several good souvenir shops, and restaurants where you can drink a coffee while people-watching. On Christmas, it fills with lights, street food hawkers, Palestinian marching bands, and merrymakers in Santa hats under a towering tree.

Mini Israel

This 13-acre theme park contains nearly 400 models of the most important historical, national, religious, and natural sites in the country, all scaled down to 1:25. Although some visitors have complained that the models are showing signs of wear, the site is worth at least an hour's visit, especially if you're traveling with children.

Mosaic Centre Jericho

This center works to restore ancient mosaics at some of the most well-known sites of the Holy Land, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It also produces new works for sacred and secular sites in the region and overseas. Founded by local conservator Osama Hamdan and the late Franciscan archaeologist Michele Piccirillo, the center offers courses for aficionados. Visitors can see the charming decorated garden and watch mosaic artists at work. Intricate (if heavy) mementos are for sale, and the center can also connect you with a guesthouse it runs near Nablus and a satellite branch in Bethlehem.

Nabi Musa

This expansive domed mosque complex was built in the 13th century on the site that Muslims believe to be the tomb of Moses. Wander the halls and courtyards to admire the well-preserved Islamic architecture and peek into the shrine dedicated to Moses. The second floor offers stunning views of the surrounding desert. There are some stands in the shade outside where locals sell tea, cold drinks, and trinkets. Modest dress is required, including long skirts for women. Both Israeli- and Palestinian-plated cars are allowed here.

Israel, Jericho, Israel

Neot Kedumim

The name means "Oases of Antiquity," and, at Israel's only biblical landscape reserve, you can follow paved paths that wind around ancient olive terraces, bushes of sage and hyssop, and millennia-old winepresses. Show yourself around with the help of a map that's available in English. Guided tours (available only to groups of 20 or more) offer insight on the threshing floors, the Dale of the Song of Songs, and the Valley of Milk and Honey and focus on Jewish, Christian, or interfaith themes. Ask about Biblical meals as well. Allow two hours minimum for the visit.